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quiver in his toe, because what could be more primitive than any form of land transport? And even though it took time to get the things, they worked so well that, in spite of the procession's head start, he was at the Earth ship long before the official greeters had reached it.

The newcomers were indeed humanoid, he saw. Only the peculiarly pasty color of their skins and their embarrassing lack of antennae distinguished them visibly from the Snaddrath. They were dressed much as the Snaddrath had been before they had adopted primitive garb.

In fact, the Terrestrials were quite decent-looking life-forms, entirely different from the foppish monsters Skkiru had somehow expected to represent the cultural ruling race. Of course, he had frequently seen pictures of them, but everyone knew how easily those could be retouched. Why, it was the Terrestrials themselves, he had always understood, who had invented the art of retouching—thus proving beyond a doubt that they had something to hide.

"Look, Raoul," the older of the two Earthmen said in Terran—which the Snaddrath were not, according to the master plan, supposed to understand, but which most of them did, for it was the fashionable third language on most of the outer planets. "A beggar. Haven't seen one since some other chaps and I were doing a spot of field work on that little planet in the Arcturus system—what was its name? Glotch, that's it. Very short study, it turned out to be. Couldn't get more than a pamphlet out of it, as we were unable to stay long enough to amass enough material for a really definitive work. The natives tried to eat us, so we had to leave in somewhat of a hurry."

"Oh, they were cannibals?" the other Earthman asked, so respectfully that it was easy to deduce he was the subordinate of the two. "How horrible!"

"No, not at all," the other assured him. "They weren't human—another species entirely—so you could hardly call it cannibalism. In fact, it was quite all right from the ethical standpoint, but abstract moral considerations seemed less important to us than self-preservation just then. Decided that, in this case, it would be best to let the missionaries get first crack at them. Soften them up, you know."

"And the missionaries—did they soften them up, Cyril?"

"They softened up the missionaries, I believe." Cyril laughed. "Ah, well, it's all in the day's work."

"I hope these creatures are not man-eaters," Raoul commented, with a polite smile at Cyril and an apprehensive glance at the oncoming procession—creatures indeed! Skkiru thought, with a mental sniff. "We have come such a long and expensive way to study them that it would be indeed a pity if we also were forced to depart in haste. Especially since this is my first field trip and I would like to make good at it."

"Oh, you will, my boy, you will." Cyril clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "I have every confidence in your ability."

Either he was stupid, Skkiru thought, or he was lying, in spite of Bbulas' asseverations that untruth was unknown to Terrestrials—which had always seemed highly improbable, anyway. How could any intelligent life-form possibly stick to the truth all the time? It wasn't human; it wasn't even humanoid; it wasn't even polite.

"The natives certainly appear to be human enough," Raoul added, with an appreciative glance at the females, who had been selected for the processional honor with a view to reported Terrestrial tastes. "Some slight differences, of course—but, if two eyes are beautiful, three eyes can be fifty per cent lovelier, and chartreuse has always been my favorite color."

If they stand out here in the cold much longer, they are going to turn bright yellow. His own skin, Skkiru knew, had faded from its normal healthy emerald to a sickly celadon.

Cyril frowned and his companion's smile vanished, as if the contortion of his superior's face had activated a circuit somewhere. Maybe the little one's a robot! However, it couldn't be—a robot would be better constructed and less interested in females than Raoul.

"Remember," Cyril said sternly, "we must not establish undue rapport with the native females. It tends to detract from true objectivity."

"Yes, Cyril," Raoul said meekly.

Cyril assumed a more cheerful aspect "I should like to give this chap something for old times' sake. What do you suppose is the medium of exchange here?"

Money, Skkiru said to himself, but he didn't dare contribute this piece of information, helpful though it would be.

"How should I know?" Raoul shrugged.

"Empathize. Get in there, old chap, and start batting."

"Why not give him a bar of chocolate, then?" Raoul suggested grumpily. "The language of the stomach, like the language of love, is said to be a universal one."

"Splendid idea! I always knew you had it in you, Raoul!"

Skkiru accepted the candy with suitable—and entirely genuine—murmurs of gratitude. Chocolate was found only in the most expensive of the planet's delicacy shops—and now neither delicacy shops nor chocolate were to be found, so, if Bbulas thought he was going to save the gift to contribute it later to the Treasury, the "high priest" was off his rocker.

To make sure there would be no subsequent dispute about possession, Skkiru ate the candy then and there. Chocolate increased the body's resistance to weather, and never before had he had to endure so much weather all at once.

On Earth, he had heard, where people lived exposed to weather, they often sickened of it and passed on—which helped to solve the problem of birth control on so vulgarly fecund a planet. Snaddra, alas, needed no such measures, for its population—like its natural resources—was dwindling rapidly. Still, Skkiru thought, as he moodily munched on the chocolate, it would have been better to flicker out on their own than to descend to a subterfuge like this for nothing more than survival.

Being a beggar, Skkiru discovered, did give him certain small, momentary advantages over those who had been alloted higher ranks. For one thing, it was quite in character for him to tread curiously upon the strangers' heels all the way to the temple—a ramshackle affair, but then it had been run up in only three days—where the official reception was to be held. The principal difficulty was that, because of his equipment, he had a little trouble keeping himself from overshooting the strangers. And though Bbulas might frown menacingly at him—and not only for his forwardness—that was in character on both sides, too.

Nonetheless, Skkiru could not reconcile himself to his beggarhood, no matter how much he tried to comfort himself by thinking at least he wasn't a pariah like the unfortunate metal-workers who had to stand segregated from the rest by a chain of their own devising—a poetic thought, that was, but well in keeping with his beggarhood. Beggars were often poets, he believed, and poets almost always beggars. Since metal-working was the chief industry of Snaddra, this had provided the planet automatically with a large lowest caste. Bbulas had taken the easy way out.

Skkiru swallowed the last of the chocolate and regarded the "high priest" with a simple-minded mendicant's grin. However, there were volcanic passions within him that surged up from his toes when, as the wind and rain whipped through his scanty coverings, he remembered the snug underskirts Bbulas was wearing beneath his warm gown. They were metal, but they were solid. All the garments visible or potentially visible were of woven metal, because, although there was cloth on the planet, it was not politic for the Earthmen to discover how heavily the Snaddrath depended upon imports.

As the Earthmen reached the temple, Larhgan now appeared to join Bbulas at the head of the long flight of stairs that led to it. Although Skkiru had seen her in her priestly apparel before, it had not made the emotional impression upon him then that it did now, when, standing there, clad in beauty, dignity and warm clothes, she bade the newcomers welcome in several thousand words not too well chosen for her by Bbulas—who fancied himself a speech-writer as well as a speech-maker, for there was no end to the man's conceit.

The difference between her magnificent garments and his own miserable rags had their full impact upon Skkiru at this moment. He saw the gulf that had been dug between them and, for the first time in his short life, he felt the tormenting pangs of caste distinction. She looked so lovely and so remote.

"... and so you are most welcome to Snaddra, men of Earth," she was saying in her melodious voice. "Our resources may be small but our hearts are large, and what little we have, we offer with humility and with love. We hope that you will enjoy as long and as happy a stay here as you did on Nemeth...."

Cyril looked at Raoul, who, however, seemed too absorbed in contemplating Larhgan's apparently universal charms to pay much attention to the expression on his companion's face.

"... and that you will carry our affection back to all the peoples of the Galaxy."

She had finished. And now Cyril cleared his throat. "Dear friends, we were honored by your gracious invitation to visit this fair planet, and we are honored now by the cordial reception you have given to us."

The crowd yoomped politely. After a slight start, Cyril went on, apparently deciding that applause was all that had been intended.

"We feel quite sure that we are going to derive both pleasure and profit from our stay here, and we promise to make our intensive analysis of your culture as painless as possible. We wish only to study your society, not to tamper with it in any way."

Ha, ha, Skkiru said to himself. Ha, ha, ha!

"But why is it," Raoul whispered in Terran as he glanced around out of the corners of his eyes, "that only the beggar wears mudshoes?"

"Shhh," Cyril hissed back. "We'll find out later, when we've established rapport. Don't be so impatient!"

Bbulas gave a sickly smile. Skkiru could almost find it in his hearts to feel sorry for the man.

"We have prepared our best hut for you, noble sirs," Bbulas said with great self-control, "and, by happy chance, this very evening a small but unusually interesting ceremony will be held outside the temple. We hope you will be able to attend. It is to be a rain dance."

"Rain dance!" Raoul pulled his macintosh together more tightly at the throat. "But why do you want rain? My faith, not only does it rain now, but the planet seems to be a veritable sea of mud. Not, of course," he added hurriedly as Cyril's reproachful eye caught his, "that it is not attractive mud. Finest mud I have ever seen. Such texture, such color, such aroma!"

Cyril nodded three times and gave an appreciative sniff.

"But," Raoul went on, "one can have too much of even such a good thing as mud...."

The smile did not leave Bbulas' smooth face. "Yes, of course, honorable Terrestrials. That is why we are holding this ceremony. It is not a dance to bring on rain. It is a dance to stop rain."

He was pretty quick on the uptake, Skkiru had to concede. However, that was not enough. The man had no genuine organizational ability. In the time he'd had in which to plan and carry out a scheme for the improvement of Snaddra, surely he could have done better than this high-school theocracy. For one thing, he could have apportioned the various roles so that each person would be making a definite contribution to the society, instead of creating some positions plums, like the priesthood, and others prunes, like the beggarship.

What kind of life was that for an active, ambitious young man, standing around begging? And, moreover, from whom was Skkiru going to beg? Only the Earthmen, for the Snaddrath, no matter how much they threw themselves into the spirit of their roles, could not be so carried away that they would give handouts to a young man whom they had been accustomed to see basking in the bosom of luxury.

Unfortunately, the fees that he'd received in the past had not enabled him both to live well and to save, and now that his fortunes had been so drastically reduced, he seemed in a fair way of starving to death. It gave him a gentle, moody pleasure to envisage his own funeral, although, at the same time, he realized that Bbulas would probably have to arrange some sort of pension for him; he could not expect Skkiru's patriotism to extend to abnormal limits. A man might be willing to die for his planet in many ways—but wantonly starving to death as the result of a primitive affectation was hardly one of them.

All the same, Skkiru reflected as he watched the visitors being led off to the native hut prepared for them, how ignominious it would be for one of the brightest young architects on the planet

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